Ashwaghanda is indeed associated with an ancient Indian medicine system, known as Ayurvedic medicine, that is based on a pagan belief that health comes from the proper integration and balancing of the body, mind and spirit with the surrounding universe. This blog explains Ayurvedic medicine more thoroughly.
As for the ashwaghanda supplement, its name means "the smell of a horse" because of its unique odor, and is derived from the root and berries of the ashwaghanda plant. Also known as "Indian ginseng", it's used in the form of a tonic to improve physical and mental health. It's also used as a sedative, a diuretic and as a kind of aphrodisiac.
According to WebMD, some experiments have shown that it may affect the immune system, the pathogenesis of cancer and inflammatory conditions; however, trials supporting its clinical use are limited.
Drugs.com reports that this supplement has abortifacient qualities which is why pregnant women are warned against using it.
Large doses are known to cause upset stomachs, diarrhea and vomiting, but it could cause more serious side effects in people who have abnormal heart rhythms, breathing problems, low blood pressure and kidney damage.
Anyone with a serious health condition such as cancer , thyroid problems, bleeding disorders, diabetes, ulcers, etc. should talk to a doctor before using.
It is also recommended that people stop taking the supplement two weeks before surgery.
Ashwangandha can also interact with other drugs or supplements, particularly sedatives, blood thinners, thyroid supplements, high blood pressure and drugs that suppress the immune system.
It can also interact with other supplements, such as St. John's wort, kava, valerian, and others.
The supplement industry in the United States is not regulated, which means everything we read on supplement labels should be taken with a grain of salt. Manufacturers can literally say anything without having to prove their claims.
This article by Dr. David Seres gives a good overview of the issues surrounding the use of supplements in the U.S. and what is being done to make this booming industry safer for consumers.